Sunday, August 05, 2007

0 Degrees of Separation

michael at portobello
Michael Monroe in my rooms (6 & 7) at the Portobello Hotel, London, 1985
note my ridiculous Yoko Ono-esque Courreges sunglasses in the foreground, now MIA - VERY 80's!


1985 was the summer that Stiv, Michael Monroe and I were roommates in London - in Stiv's flat in Ladbroke Grove, in mine at the Portobello Hotel, and in Michael's road manager's flat in Old Church Street, South Kensington ... Stiv had already conquered punk rock, he'd gone solo as a power popper and made the world safe for Goths with the Wanderers and Lords of the New Church.

Always a lover of glam AND rock and glam-rock, Stiv was about to make some music with Hanoi Rocks front man, Michael Monroe and he was about to show his sense of social responsibility by participating in Artists United Against Apartheid, otherwise known as the Sun City project.

stiv amst. 85 - 72

I know you are accustomed to seeing me photographing Stiv, but here, he's photographing me. This photo was taken - of him photographing me photographing him - in Amsterdam in July 1985.

Why did we have so many places to stay? Well, we didn't stay in any of them for very long, for reasons I'll explain later.

Stiv and I were in Amsterdam for a week's vacation, so that when we returned to the UK, we could have an additional 6 months to stay without having to deal with getting extended stay visas. We were both pretty savvy at getting around having to deal with government paperwork. I mean - can you imagine Lords of the New Church-era stiv in the US Embassy?

Although he looked out of place in a government office, Stiv lived the life of a rock n roll celebrity; had a rather palatial (by London standards), expensive flat in Ladbroke Grove. Arundel Gardens. We could see Lemmy's house from Stiv's roof deck (see, I meant it when i called it palatial by London standards), and we were walking distance from the Portobello Hotel, where i always stayed in those days. Whenever it was available, I got rooms 6 and 7, on the ground floor. The big room opened out into the hotel's beautiful English garden. the little room was big enough for the bed, a desk and the walkway between them to the bathroom, which was only big enough to turn around in. Both the rooms were gorgeous though. The big room had a giant four-poster bed with a canopy and green velvet curtains that wrapped around the entire bed, so you could completely block all daylight out and sleep in.

Even though I charged these posh Portobello stays with credit cards that my parents paid, I was careful to stretch out my credit allotment. Usually, we'd stay at the hotel for a week each month. That would basically take care of the time it took us to find another apartment - or holiday let.... we were on the move that summer because Stiv and his girlfriend had split up and he couldn't really afford the palatial Ladbroke Grove digs on his own.

Michael was in between flats, too. There was a month his road manager went out of town, and we stayed there. After that, we stayed at the flat where I was house-sitting when Little Steven came to London...

That is where the Sun City thing comes in. And also, this would be a good time to clock on the link that is the title of this post. Its an interview with Michael Monroe that discusses this whole period. Its been translated from the Finn language, so its kind of like reading the literally translated instructions on build-it-yourself kits from Japan. Once you get past the minimal language thing, its a fantastic story - and one you should hear from Michael and not me, even though I was there.

stiv ravenscourt pk small

In my journey through the Golden Age of Punk Rock and beyond with Stiv, there were no degrees of separation between me and the people who made punk rock great. That's because Stiv was beloved by all of them - sometimes for his truly endearing personality, which you immediately sensed. There were others who admired him for what he contributed to rock n roll, the doors he kicked down and the bridges he built. Couple that with Stiv's enduring friendships with Joey and Dee Dee Ramone, and you get to lead a life that's incredibly unbelievable.

When I was doing it, before they knew what was going to emerge from the work, many of my old skool pals asked me what on earth I was doing working with the guitar player from the E Street Band. Well, I asked Stiv the very same question back when Little Steven showed up unannounced (and sans his Boss) in London, ready to bring Stiv and Michael into a recording studio and have them guest on a big project of his. Stiv assured me that the guy was a big Dead Boys fan. Fifteen years later, Stiv and the Dead Boys are heard on syndicated radio. Stiv was right!

stiv on sand1

According to the metrics I get for this blog, Stiv Bators and Debbie Harry are the two most frequently searched artists on this site. Coincidentally, Stiv and Debbie along with Joan Jett and Billy Idol gave me more photo opportunities than anyone, as well as years of friendship and support. I'm happy that three out of four of these old skool punk pals are big international superstars now. If Stiv were around, I just know that he would be starting a new trend right about now.

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